William Morgan

1541?-1604. Welsh bishop and Bible translator. Born at Ty Mawr, Wybrnant, in the parish of Penmachno, Caernarvonshire, about 1541, he was the son of a tenant on the Gwydir estates. Graduate of Cambridge, he probably began his career as a clergyman in 1572 and served in a number of livings, including Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant (1578-95?), the place with which his name is most closely associated. He was harassed by critics and personal enemies with the result that he was implicated in suits and countersuits in the Court of Star Chamber and before the Council of the Marches, 1589-91. In 1595 he was consecrated bishop of Llandaff and was translated in 1601 to St. Asaph, where his zeal to defend the privileges of his diocese brought him into bitter conflict with local magnates.

Although he had a troubled career, the evidence seems to reveal him as a man of principle and a conscientious promoter of the good of his flock, not least in his emphasis on the need for preaching. His greatest title to the gratitude of Welsh people, however, was his work as translator of the Bible. John Whitgift* warmly patronized the work, and it was printed in London and published in 1588. By any standard it is a superb piece of work. Although subsequently revised, it is substantially still the Bible used by Welsh readers.

Morgan was an ideal man for the task of translating. His training at Cambridge under such scholars as Immanuel Tremellius, and his familiarity with the work of translating already done on the Continent and in England, provided him with the necessary academic equipment. On the other hand, his deep roots in the classical tradition of Welsh literature give his prose a rare dignity. His Bible is the virtual basis of modern Welsh prose- writing and the foundation for modern Welsh Protestantism. In that way William Morgan's Bible has had a more profound influence on the creation of modern Wales than any other single book in the nation's history.